10 years ago - the poet and the potions

Taking up a challenge from the other RSC - the Royal Shakespeare Company - which was launching a production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the RSC (the chemistry one) approached Quest International with the task of recreating the love potion which causes Titania, queen of the fairies, to fall in love with the first person she sees.

Shakespeare mentions 'a little western flower, before milk-white, now purple with love's wound and maidens call it love-in-idleness'. Love-in-idleness is an old folk name for wild pansy (Viola tricolor), which has long been used as a herbal remedy. Using this flower as the main ingredient, the researchers at Quest then added a range of other flowery fragrances to create the final elixir, which has been termed Puck's potion.

Charles Sell, head of organic chemistry at Quest, said: 'There are scores of references to plants and herbs in Shakespeare, who was obviously very knowledgeable about their real and mythical potency'.

Chemistry in Britain (2002)

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